Storrs, CT (Sports Network) - The Detroit Titans hope to pull off a shocking early-season upset as they take on the 19th-ranked Connecticut Huskies at Gampel Pavilion as part of the 2K Sports Classic.
Detroit was one of the elite teams in the nation last year on the offensive end with an average of 78 points per game on 45.6 percent shooting from the floor. Coach Ray McCallum's Titans made it apparent they will struggle to reach those numbers in 2013-14 as they shot a mere 28.9 percent and made only 1-of-14 attempts from beyond the arc in their season-opening, 74-58, setback at South Alabama. Detroit bounced back on Monday with a 106-51 rout of NAIA foe University of Michigan-Dearborn at home. The team will have to carry that momentum with it to Storrs if it hopes to climb over the .500 mark.
Kevin Ollie's Huskies narrowly defeated Maryland to begin their season before coasting to an 80-62 decision over Yale on Monday to stay perfect. Senior guard Shabazz Napier was sensational versus the Bulldogs, finishing with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to register his second-career triple-double and just the 10th in the school's history. UConn knocked down 11-of-17 attempts from beyond the arc in its last outing and has shot 53.8 percent from the field through its first two games.
This will be just the second encounter between the Titans and Huskies in history. Detroit defeated UConn, 67-61, in the 2001 NIT in Storrs.
The Titans will rely on junior forward Juwan Howard, Jr. versus the Huskies. The son of the former Michigan Wolverine superstar has posted a double-double in both games thus far and leads the team with averages of 20 points and 10.5 rebounds per contest. Jarod Williams, Anton Wilson and Evan Bruinsma have added 23 points apiece through two games. Bruinsma, who is also second on the team in the rebounding column with 7.5 per tilt, has struggled on the offensive end with makes on only 29.4 percent of his field goal tries. Michigan transfer Carlton Brundidge is also off to a slow start as he has contributed just 8.5 ppg after draining just 31.8 percent of his field goal tries and just 3-of-9 at the free-throw line. Senior center Ugochukwu Njoku showed he is ready to be a vital role player for his final campaign as he grabbed nine rebounds, blocked five shots and tied his career-best with eight points on Monday.
Napier's triple-double left him with stellar averages of 16 points, nine rebounds, 8.5 assists and 1.5 steals per outing. The Huskies have plenty of talent surrounding their star guard as Niels Giffey, Omar Calhoun and Ryan Boatright have all surpassed the 20-point mark on the season already as well. Giffey is one of the hottest players in the nation through two games as he has converted 83.3 percent of his field goal tries, including 8-of-9 from 3-point range. Calhoun is coming off a stellar freshman campaign during which he posted 11.1 ppg en route to an appearance on the Big East All-Rookie Team. Boatright ranked 10th in the Big East in scoring last season and finished ninth in assists with 15.4 ppg and 4.4 apg. Ollie also has an experienced wing to provide a spark off the bench in Lasan Kromah, who started 71 of his 92 games at George Washington before transferring to UConn as a graduate student.